Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's All In The Name



I was thinking about names. A friend became a first time grandparent today and her granddaughter has been given a trendy name. You know how that goes. The Conors and the Taylors and the Bethanys and the Jacobs.

In my time, in Ireland, the all-powerful Catholic church had an incredible influence on naming one's child. Always after a saint, sometimes after a holy nun or a holy priest (the adjective 'holy' was always attached to these sainted clerics, along with "Holy God" and "Holy Mary" - God's baby mama.)

Suggestions were made by the clerics and were enforced. The baby was often dragged away to the church as the mother lay recovering from the labour and her wishes disregarded as the priest pronounced his preference over the child's freshly baptized wet head. Seriously. That was so in my case. I joined a multitude of same-names, identified for years by our surnames in schools and offices. Individuality was not encouraged.

Those of unusual names (Olive, Celine, Violet, et al) were mocked by the nuns as being almost Protestant - " Was your mother not of the faith?", "Is your father a West Briton?".

Yanks (Americans) were mocked for naming the boys "Junior" after the father. "Did they not care enough about him to give him his own saintly name?"

As to us, the same-named girls, we mocked the Assumptas and the Conceptas and the Immaculatas - named for the various life stages of the above-mentioned Holy Mary and more infrequently for the great-aunt nuns who had some influence over the family naming.

My late dear M-I-L approved of the names I had chosen for her grandchildren but could be heard pitifully bleating over the choice made by her other D-I-L.

"Brooke?" she said to me, almost weeping into her afternoon sherry, "What kind of person names her child after a stream, tell me that."

I wanted to quote Bob Dylan and his Times They Are A-Changin' but just clucked in sympathy as I poured us another.

I've known a few who changed their names. I'd always wanted to but didn't have the guts. Tried to in Italy back in the day but was met with derision when I attempted the shift at home so reverted.

It's too late now. Plus I really have grown into it.

24 comments:

  1. What's even worse is the bizarre spellings parents are choosing for simple names. They think that spelling a name differently will make their child different and stand out. All it does is doom that poor child to a life time of spelling their name for everyone.
    The nuns would say "Didn't the parents go to school and learn to spell?"

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  2. Anon:
    Yes, Hayleigh and Kayleigh spring immediately to mind!
    XO
    WWW

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  3. I suppose my own name is quite saintly, though no one ever thinks of it that way. I feel for those kids who're given totally ridiculous names by their parents. Like Fifi Trixibelle. And then when they try to change it, everyone makes a huge fuss as if they were about to chop an arm off.

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  4. It's hard enough for a child with an unusual name without being mocked by adults about it. Such casual cruelty.

    Mine didn't seem too strange because I had an uncle and grand-uncle with the same name, but as I grew older I noticed how rarely I ever met another Stan.

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  5. I was named Elizabeth Anne. You don't know how many women born in the same year (give or take) as me that carry the same names. Most of them go by Beth or Betty or Liz today, so every time I meet a woman by one of those names I am tempted to ask about their middle name. I have no idea what the craze for that combination of names was that year. Or why I am an "Anne" not a "Beth" or "Liz" or "Betty". What's the point of naming a child Elizabeth only to never utter that name again?

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  6. What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

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  7. I had no idea of the influence of the church in choosing a baby's name. Quite interesting to me.

    The unusual names of the last decade .. well I suppose they will grow up thinking they are normal? The really unusual ones ... well not so sure the children will be too happy and perhaps will want to change them. Time will tell.

    In my family (we were not Catholic) my parents named us after a loved one. Except for my first name. Mom felt me kick for the first time at Christmas, so my name was to be Carol. The popular Elizabeth is my second name after an aunt.

    Quite interesting is the naming of babies and how it is decided upon.

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  8. Dr √Čamon de Valera the Gynaecologist and son of the late President 'Dev' asked all his 'mothers' to call or add Mary to their babies names - males included. My four brothers and sister all had that name added.

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  9. We notice lots of peculiar sounding and peculiarly-spelled first names in Okie land, they seem to be the norm here rather than the exception.

    I was given 3 Christian names, the first of which I hated (Maisie) and denounced it in favour of name #3, as soon as I was old enough to denounce anything. It still raises its head whenever I'm involved in anything "official" because it comes first on all official documents, so I have to "train" doctors receptionists and dentists not to shout "Maisie - come through now please....etc."
    :-)

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  10. My mother and her sisters were all Mary-this and Mary-that. I'm a Mary named after my grandmother.
    I gave my daughters ordinary WASP-y names.
    My granddaughters all have first names or middle names of various grandmothers. Pretty names. No Marys or saints' names.

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  11. Actually Nick, your name is quite Christmasy :)
    I think the Fifis make tons of money just breathing. Look at the kkkkkk-kardashians....
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Stan:
    I've known one or two other Stans, it is a name now fallen into disfavour, but these are always temporary set-backs. It will come around again.
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Annie:
    Elizabeth Anne was an Olympian, was she? Trying to remember. Sometimes there is a run on those names.

    I remember a run on Barbaras and Marions in 1954.

    I think you got the best out of the deal. I've always loved "Annie". There is something so approachable about an Annie.

    XO
    WWW

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  14. Marc:
    I just KNEW someone was going to make that comment. I am so glad I'm not disappointed.
    XO
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  15. Carol:

    I like that story of the Christmas kick, lol.

    My children's father and I were quite fair. He named the first and I named the second.

    Good names. I think.

    XO
    WWW

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  16. GM:

    This was the chappie who was performing symphysiotomies on every woman having a difficult birth in our native land?

    I've written about my mother's here:

    http://wisewebwoman.blogspot.ca/search?q=Symphysiotomy

    Brainwashed masses. Even down to the naming of their own children.

    Yikes.

    XO
    WWW

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  17. T:
    In Ireland, Maisie was short for Margaret, the Irish for Margaret being Mairead (pronounced Myrade).
    At least in the south where I'm from.
    I dont' blame you for switching to your third.
    XO
    WWW

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  18. Hattie:
    I think commemoration can be lovely.
    Nice to see certain old names coming back - Hannah and Emma and Jane and even Mary.
    XO
    WWW

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  19. And I endorse your conclusion. I like both the names, though you are presumably talking only about one!

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  20. Its taken a while but I like my first name now. "Government".

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  21. I was glad to hear that those Neo-Nazis lost their parental rights after they named their one child Hitler.

    To my mind a name should be as individual as a person, so my name came to me as a sound in my late teens and stayed with me. The easy acceptance by my friends then made the transition smooth and effortless.

    My little adopted dog's name (TJ) seemed all wrong to me, so observing him for several months his name finally came to me. Sumo can be a ferocious wrestler and his size adds just a touch of welcome, not derisive humor. Little did I know that former French President Jacques Chirac had also a Poodle/Maltese that though bit him thrice.

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  22. Thank you Ramana, my liking of it only came to me in the last twenty years or so! (Seeing it in print, perhaps)
    XO
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  23. GFB:
    Your middle name has a nice ring to it also. We should all have it!
    XO
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  24. Welcome S!

    It seems the sibilance of your name carried over to your wee dog!

    Nice!

    XO
    WWW

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